What We’re Loving: Crapalachia, Welty, Animalia


This Week’s Reading

crapalachiaThough the book doesn’t come out until the middle of next month, I can’t wait until then to say how much I liked Scott McClanahan’s Crapalachia. It’s about his youth in rural West Virginia, where he spent his formative years under the influence of his Grandma Ruby and Uncle Nathan, who suffered from cerebral palsy. The book is subtitled “a biography of a place,” but it’s more a biography of a handful of people, and Ruby and Nathan are easily its star characters: beguiling in their weirdness and utterly charming in their deep affection for each other and for Scott. His voice is wholly unaffected, and his account manages to be both comic and unpretentiously sentimental. —Nicole Rudick

 My worst reading habit is not reading too fast, or too slow, or stopping books in the middle, or right before the end (though I do all of those things). It’s my persistent impulse to read books that reflect my mood—an impulse that, if indulged often, reduces my reading list to a positively uncatholic range of authors and subjects. But one recent evening, my initial, “safe” pick (James’s The Golden Bowl) was thwarted by Geneviève Castrée’s Susceptible, which, when spotted in a pile of neglected books, looked too intriguing to let alone. An autobiographical comic, the work is less like an illustrated diary and more like a scrapbook; it shows rather than tells, pasting together a series of vignettes to build a narrative of the author’s troubled early life. Castrée’s beautifully toned black-and-white drawings even read more like vintage photographs than they do sketches. The book’s pervasive melancholy is still lingering with me, a reminder of why we really read: to feel things besides our own emotions. —Clare Fentress

 In a used bookstore, I stumbled upon a nondescript book, one Victor Canning’s A Delivery of Furies. The sleeve was long lost and it had been rebound in a dull, faded salmon. Consequently, I knew nothing about the story but the title. Imagine John le Carré meets Hunter S. Thompson: murder, adventure, sabotage, sex, all embellished with tropical settings and stock characters, and in the same cynically blunt voice of Thompson’s The Rum Diary. Canning writes, “It was dark, no moon, but a sky so full of bright stars that seemed too close to the earth to be comfortable. One of those tropical nights which overdid everything, too hot, the air too thick with flower scents, and the fireflies around the oleander bushes too brilliant.”

That’s what it is—poetry, but cleverly disguised as drugstore fiction. So captivating you don’t realize how delicately the sentences are strung together until the second time around. (I’m currently rereading). Canning died in 1986 without leaving much of a legacy (I’ve yet to meet another reader) despite publishing over fifty titles in a fifty-year period. His stories, it seems, didnt have the stqying power of the canon. But the point is, literary merit or no, this is why you’re most likely go find me trolling used bookstores for mysterious, completely unfamiliar titles. —Matthew Smith

The other day, I picked up Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings at a used bookstore. Welty’s writing about her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi is wonderful and served to stir up some half-fossilized memories in me, but the real reason I bought the book is because it is pocket sized. Having recently readjusted to city living, I’m reminded that mobility is key. It’s freeing to simply stuff a book in your pocket and head out the door: every store, stoop, or subway seat becomes a possible place to read. —Brenna Scheving

Caspar Henderson calls his The Book of Barely Imagined Beings a “twenty-first-century bestiary,” but it defies even that description. Inspired in part by Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, it is indeed a catalog of amazing animals, but it is so much more: a combination of natural history, human history, and philosophy, it is compulsively readable, both informative and thought provoking. —Sadie Stein